Lady Father’s Blog

4 Out Of 4 Stars!

This is an official review from I am so excited and grateful for this validation of my precious Lady Father. I am printing the review here in its entirety.

“What if I hadn’t endured the agony of rejection and the long, winding journey that I had just completed?” Rev. Susan B Bowman.

Lady Father is a memoir that was authored by The Rev. Susan B Bowman. It is an honest recollection of the events of her life from 1975. It chronicles her courage, resilience, and endurance right from the call to ministry, through training, and ordination as a priest at a time when this was not good news to everyone. The book is 174 pages long. It is divided into three parts and contains seventeen chapters. All the chapters were titled appropriately and thus giving the reader a hint on what to expect.

Susan had been challenged by the reflections from a church youth group during a retreat. These youths were different because they were thirsty for God’s word and spiritual truths. She eventually became the Youth Group Advisor in 1976 and found a youth ministry that fed her with more friendship and love than she had ever known before. The youth ministry sparked an interest in her to study Theology. There were hurdles to be overcome in this journey. This was at a time when there was a lot of discrimination against women serving as leaders in the church. She was also supposed to be approved by her bishop who was well-known for his stand in favor of all-male church leadership.

The book handled gender discrimination comprehensively, especially in the church. It was surprising to read that many people did not have any issues with Susan Bowman except being a priest. This was made worse because even some of her closest friends conspired against her. She was forced to resign twice by people who did not involve her in their secret meetings. They did this because she was a woman. The other big problem was non-communication. No one would openly confront her about her alleged mistakes. However, these mistakes would be brought up against her after a long time.

It is also important to mention that she had wonderful friends who supported her through her journey. There were people whom she had never considered would help her or even accept her calling to the priesthood. They stood with her during her lowest moments and some offered financial aid as well. Many of them taught her many valuable lessons in subtle ways. They included her family, friends, members of youth groups, and children as well. Their support and constant encouragement were much needed in the author’s journey.

There are many things I liked about the book. What I liked most was the author’s openness. She talked to her friends honestly concerning her feelings and frustrations. This is what started her journey of recovery when she fell into depression. I also loved the rhetoric questions posed in the book because they ushered me into moments of deep reflection. I was also encouraged since the author never gave up even when it looked like there was no light at the end of the dark tunnel. She kept going on and her resilience finally paid off. There was nothing I disliked in the book.

The book was professionally edited. The language employed was also straightforward. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to all fans of memoirs. It will appeal most to those who may be battling gender discrimination in the workplace. I am sure the book will leave all readers with a great deal to think about.

Lady Father
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon

​​​​​​He gives strength to those who are tired; to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.

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Press Release – January 2020

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan B Bowman

 Rev. Bowman’s Memoir “Lady Father” featured in “Per Ardua” (Through Adversity) Winter Women’s Issue 2019 Episcopal New Yorker

Glenmont, New York – December 20, 2019 – Rev. Bowman’s compelling memoir has been showcased in the Women’s Issue of the Episcopal New Yorker, the quarterly magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Entitled “Per Ardua” (translated “Through Adversity”) it is printed in English but the title of the article certainly captures the essence of her tumultuous journey into the ordination process of the Episcopal Church newly opened to women in the 1980’s. With a Bishop (the Rt. Rev. C. Claude Vache’) who refused to ordain women and a process still holding fast to the traditional all-male priesthood, Rev. Bowman was subjected to discriminatory practices and was not recommended for ordination until a year after her graduation from seminary. “Per Ardua” is written with the same honesty and gentle courage as her book which is set in the Dioceses of Southern Virginia and Albany. Her journey took her through various ministries during which she encountered everything from outright hostility and lost members to respect and devotion for her loving care of all those God put in her path, regardless of their stance on the issue. The events are reported honestly and without rancor, hostility, or excuses.

It is painful; it is often light-hearted, even humorous; it is moving as it deals with real people, real events, and real emotions; and, most of all, it is mine – my story, my journey, my life.” Susan B. Bowman

“Per Ardua” begins with a brief description of the author’s upbringing in the Episcopal Church and her early years of ministry with youth groups in Southern Virginia where she soon felt called to go to seminary. Her approach to the Bishop was shocking as this strong opponent to the ordination of women allowed her – as the first Southern Virginia woman ever – to enroll in seminary at The University of the South School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee. Three short months later, he made further history by enrolling her in the ordination process, again the first woman ever. The subsequent story of her 4 and ½-year stint as a Postulant/Candidate for Holy Orders is breathtakingly painful and outrageous – regardless of what side of the issue one was on – and her courage and perseverance was finally rewarded when she was ordained a Deacon by Bishop Vache’ on February 23, 1985 and later, on January 25, 1986, a priest in the Church of God.

“If I had known what was in store for me, I think I would have thought more than twice about embarking on this journey.”

After 15 years of parish ministry, during which Rev. Bowman was disrespected, maligned, and even called names, the joy she had found in her ministry to many faithful Episcopalians began to be overshadowed by the mistreatment leaving her at the point of despair which nearly led to her resigning from the priesthood, the Church, and even Christianity. It was again God’s intervention which led her to ministry in a tiny United Methodist congregation where she served as “Pastor-on-Loan” for 12 years and was able to find healing and to retire with joy and serenity.

To read “Per Ardua” in the Episcopal New Yorker, visit the online version at{%22issue_id%22:631033,%22publication_id%22:%2214595%22,%22page%22:16}.

About Lady Father

“Lady Father” was written by the Rev. Susan Bowman and published on May 10, 2011 by Aberdeen Bay. The website was born shortly thereafter as a home for “Lady Father” and has been a source of information about the book, theological and other more “fun” articles, as well as sermons for every season of the liturgical year. The author’s mission has been and continues to be to bring this piece of the history of women’s ordination in the Episcopal Church to the Church and, indeed, the world lest it be forgotten what an arduous journey women had to travel to serve God in his Church.

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Christmas is Here!

Nativity-Baby-Jesus-Regardless of what our society wants us to believe – Christmas is still here! It is not, as many people believe – over at midnight Christmas Day or even several days later. The Christmas season is 12 days long – from Christmas Day until Epiphany (January 6th) – and, at least in the Episcopal Church, this is when we sing Christmas Carols as we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child and await the coming of the Magi to welcome and worship him, even in the face of the hatred and violence of King Herod. In many churches and Episcopal homes, this trio is even placed at the far edge of a Christmas creche and moved ever closer as the days go by until at the end of 12 days they arrive at the manger. There are, however, still Christmas pageants that include the coming of the Wise Men only moments after the arrival of the shepherds and the angels and many churches sing “We Three Kings” and “The First Nowell” long before January 6th. This is really unfortunate. Even though there are no hard and fast rules about this, it would be nice if we were all on the same Christmas Season page.

2OrnamentsOnTreeI like this tradition, although I have to admit, I’ve only kept it partially. As a child, we always put up our Christmas trees and hung the stockings several weeks before Christmas and I can never remember leaving everything up for long after Christmas Day. It may have been because we had live trees for years and it wasn’t a real good idea to leave dry and shedding trees in the house – a disaster waiting to happen. But I don’t think we ever thought about it being the 12 days of Christmas or we could have left up the other decorations. But we didn’t do that and it wasn’t until I went to seminary and learned about the Epiphany and how long it was – even years – before the Magi arrived in Bethlehem. That was when I learned about the Season of Christmas and I have been at least a partial adherent ever since, although as a single mother, I could never bring myself to try and explain it all to my young son who loved putting up the tree and decorating the house, so we still put up our tree and hung our stockings a few weeks before Christmas. Of course, he was easy to convince that we should leave it all up until January 6th. I doubt he understood it, but he was certainly happy to join in this new tradition.

tistheseason2018-webimage1So the big question is this: is the Christmas Season tradition important to our understanding of Christmas? Or does it matter at all when we decorate and un-decorate every year? I have to say this: “The answer is not set in stone and I don’t think there are many who are concerned.” Of course, it would be nice to observe Advent for 4 weeks, waiting until late Christmas Eve or even Christmas morning to decorate the tree and begin our celebration and then leaving everything in place until the coming of the Magi, completing ourmagi celebrations on January 6th. It’s always nice if we can all move together through the holidays at the same pace but the reality is even if we observe the 12 days of Christmas in our churches (and most Episcopal churches do), most people leave church on Advent Sundays and arrive at home in a pre-season Christmas setting. Confusing huh? Well, I have to say, it’s not. Because somehow we have become inured to the dates and times of Christmas and Epiphany as we just have become accustomed to celebrating Christmas as we always have. And there are as many traditions for that as there are families and individuals doing the celebrating. Some keep Advent with the lighting of an Advent Wreath or opening the days of an Advent Calendar but even some of those same people have already decorated their homes long before Christmas Eve. Some don’t even give any attention to Advent and just do Christmas as they always have. So, the reality is – I think – is that what’s important about our Christmas celebrations is what’s in our hearts and what our family traditions mean to us. I think it’s good to realize that the Wise Men didn’t show up on the night of Jesus’ birth, but probably 2 years or more later. I think it’s good to understand the meaning of their journey to worship a new King of the whole world, not just for the Jewish nation awaiting a Messiah. I think it’s fun to continue our Christmas celebrations for 12 more days after Christmas Day – after all, isn’t more celebrating a good thing? I also think it’s also a good thing to remember that everybody’s Christmas traditions are different and what’s really important is that we celebrate the birth of God’s Son as His gift to us that not only assured our salvation but also God’s own presence in our lives, even to the end of the age.ChristIsBornPoster

Merry Christmas!!

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Christmas is Coming!

It really is – in just 3 days – and it seems like just yesterday, I was wearing capri pants and sandals! I was having a conversation with a friend about just how quickly it was coming and I said, “Well, it can’t be any too soon for me because unless Christmas gets here, there will be no Spring!” I really meant that at the time (it was 8 degrees!) but in the warmth of my apartment, I am thinking with some dismay that I was missing the point. That point, it seems to me, is that Christmas is something much more than a landmark on the way to Spring. Of course, we all know that and I have known that for most of my life. Christmas has always been the high point of every year for me. Of course, when I was little, it was mainly because of all the presents 2OrnamentsOnTreewaiting under the 2 Christmas trees in our house. Even as I grew into a teenager, I can remember that same anticipation of what was to come. But at the same time, I was becoming aware that something much more important was happening. You see, I have been going to Midnight Service my entire life. Even as a little one, I must have slept in the pew, even though I don’t remember it, because my parents told me I did. I think my first conscious memory of a midnight service was when I was about 6 or 7 SantaImportantyears old. I can remember thinking that whoever had decorated the church had a weird idea of what Christmas was all about. There were no presents, only one Christmas tree, and nobody was making me go to bed so that Santa Claus could come to our home. There were no toys and, in fact, no Santa Clauses at all. 

Then, I grew up a little bit and joined the Jr. Choir which had a part in every Midnight service – we sang something, probably O Little Town of Bethlehem or Away in a Manger I’m sure, and then the Sr. Choir took over and I was relegated to my grandmother’s pew where I’m sure I promptly fell asleep. After all, it was almost midnight by that time. Then came the mother of all wonders – when I was 12 years old, I got to join the Sr. Choir and somehow Christmas became something more than just the longest service in the year. The anthems we sang and all the Christmas Carols came alive for me as I struggled to master the alto part to everything with the gentle tutorage of our paid alto soloist – a Jewish woman who always told her Rabbi not to plan anything for Sunday mornings or Christmas Eve because she had to go to HER church. I’ll never forget her and her patience and love for both me and the worship of our beloved Episcopal Church and her excitement at the wonder of our worship experience.

Nativity-Baby-Jesus-As I think about those years now, after being all grown up and after spending more than 30 years as a priest of this church I love so much, I realize that somehow the Rector and people of St. Paul’s in Petersburg, VA knew what Christmas was all about and they imparted that to me on a level that was so deep that I didn’t even realize it was there for so long. Now, I realize that thinking about Christmas with so many competing images and practices made it difficult to maintain that wonderful, magical feeling about celebrating the birth of Jesus. I tried but as the commercialization of Christmas got worse and my devotion to the Church grew dimmer in the light of college and a brief marriage to an unchurched man, I lost sight of all that and Christmas became a holiday that I spent with my family and, on Christmas Eve, my church family. But that moment had become something so brief, giving way to getting home to prepare for the thing that had become much more crucial to me – Christmas morning. We never ever attended church on Christmas morning after spending the late hours of Christmas Eve and the wee hours of Christmas morning in church. So Christmas morning was all about gifts, my Dad’s Christmas home movies and cinnamon coffee cake and that seemed to take on much importance for me and my young family.

That all changed when I left home for seminary. Everything about church took on new meaning for me as we spent many hours as a faith community not only learning about our faith and worship practices, but actually living them out in our own chapel. I distinctly remember our early Christmas worship services and then going home for Christmas that first year and thinking, “I can’t wait for the midnight service.” And, in that familiar setting, it was all that I remembered and more. Christmas had once more become something special – centered around the most wonderful gift from God – the birth of his Son. Once more I was transported to that familiar cocoon of love and wonder that I always felt in those midnight celebrations.

baby-jesusIn three short years, the roles got switched on me and suddenly I was the one on the other side of the altar. I became the doer and, as I recall it now, I wasn’t quite ready for the power of that transformation. I was now the bringer of glad tidings – I was now the one reminding my own flock of the real meaning of Christmas and I remember so well how hard I worked to make sure that everything done and said in every Christmas service pointed to the birth of Jesus – the wondrous gift of God – our hope and our salvation. It was indeed hard work but it was also a labor of love because, as I now realize, I had fallen in love with that tiny little baby boy and with all that his coming meant to me and to the world.

I was fortunate that, in my first three parishes as an ordained priest, there was a solid tradition of Christmas Eve midnight services so I continued to enjoy that beloved tradition of my own. In subsequent years, I missed that part of my Christmas celebrations. Even the occasional Christmas Day celebration, when Christmas actually fell on a Sunday, didn’t quite fill my heart the way those midnights full of wonder had over the years. And now I’m retired and pondering all these memories and wishing that I could once more return to the church of my childhood and the beauty and glory of a Christmas Eve filled with poinsettias, pine boughs, Christmas carols and alleluias (after 4 weeks of Advent), and those first moments of Christmas Day when we welcomed Jesus into our hearts, our minds, and our very souls.

stylistic2729The really good news that I can report is that all of that still lives deep in my heart and even though I can’t actually experience it all again, I can still feel the excitement of the opening strains of “O Come, all ye faithful” as we marched up the aisle. I can still feel the words of the Christmas story ringing in my ears along with “Hark! the herald angels sing.” I can still feel the quiet peace of the powerful candlelight singing of “Silent Night.” And, above all, I can still feel the exuberant joy I felt as we marched back down the aisle singing “Joy to the World” for all we were worth. I guess that’s the wonderful thing about memories – they can be resurrected when you need them and can still feed you just like before – just like God’s only son who himself was resurrected and now feeds us all just like before. 

I wish you all a blessed and joyous Christmas celebration wherever you are and I pray that you can feel that love and peace that Jesus brought into the world so long ago and still brings us even today. MERRY CHRISTMAS!


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Caring for our Veterans

Somebody said to me on Sunday after church that she was so disappointed that there was no mention of Veterans’ Day and no national hymn to mark the day when we all give thanks for our Veterans and thank them for their invaluable service. I have to agree with her. Although Veterans’ Day is not a religious holiday, it is certainly important to remember these brave men and women with a prayer at the end of the service or during Prayers of the People. When I had a parish, I always did that and I even preached a number of Veterans’ Day sermons. These people are such an integral part of our nation and the freedom we enjoy that they deserve a place in our hearts and certainly in our prayers.

My father didn’t serve in the military because he had flat feet which the Army determined were not suitable for marching and plodding through fields and forests looking for the enemy. So he joined the Army Corps of Engineers and went to South America to build roads. My husband was in the Navy and did one tour in Viet Nam by ship but he wasn’t injured and I don’t even think he went to the VA hospital once. His veteran status just didn’t seem too important to either of us. I had one cousin who served in Viet Nam and he too returned home unscathed, at least physically. The bottom line is that I have no military background. With no World War veteran in my family and only 2 other family members with any military service, I was never exposed to the pride and grief of those who watched their loved ones go off to war, who suffered the fear and the uncertainty of waiting for their return, or the doorbell ringing to announce the dreaded news. I never watched a loved one suffer from PTSD after horrendous experiences on the battlefield, I never stood with anyone as they proudly saluted the flag ,and I never rejoiced with anyone who was awarded a medal for their service.

What that has meant for me has been a long life of almost indifference to the Veterans in our midst and ignorance to their needs and their plight as they struggle with the aftermath of war and the unbelievably long red tape that keeps many of their needs from being addressed by the Veterans’ Administration. It wasn’t until I was hired as a writer by an Army Veteran from San Antonio, Texas who had a magazine called Our Heritage Magazine which spotlighted the African-American experience in this country, including Veterans like the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen, that I began to get in touch with my sense of pride and gratitude for these incredible people. I wrote editorials and articles and collated stories for regular tributes for the unsung black heroes in our country’s history, the everyday black heroes who put others before themselves and made a difference in someone’s life, and the long-forgotten and ignored black heroes who are finally beginning to be recognized and even to finally receive the medals they rightly earned during their military service.

I still do some writing for Our Heritage Magazine, which is now online at where you can read great stories and articles about living the African-American experience and about their contribution to our country’s history. The Publisher, Alvin C. Fagan, a Veteran himself has dedicated himself to raising the awareness of the people of this land to the African-American culture that is all around us. You will be amazed at the compelling nature of the stories and articles about the many unsung heroes!

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What a Sight!

Lady-Father-Shout-My-BookThis appeared on to let people know about an important book in the history of the Episcopal Church’s journey through the epic conflagration surrounding the appearance of women in the all-male priesthood after thousands of years. It was indeed cataclysmic and I was an unwitting part of it. I was just following my call from God and I tried to pay no attention to the chaos across the church. I had enough to deal with the struggles in my own little corner of our church but I soon found that God had much more planned than I had ever thought possible. I ended up being a major influence in the spiritual struggle of many people who had always thought that, when it comes to the church’s central theological beliefs, things never should and never would change. In fact, two of those people were my Bishops – the Rt. Rev. C. Charles Vache’ of the Diocese of Southern Virginia who ordained me after his own spiritual struggle. He was well-known for his opposition to women in leadership roles in the church. The other was the Rt. Rev. David S. Ball of the Diocese of Albany who approved my call to be the first women Rector in the Diocese. Not only do I hold them in highest regard for their love and care for me, but they are my heroes!

When I think back on those early days – the 70’s mostly – I remember my own astonishment at the turn things were taking in these essential parts of our religion. I couldn’t imagine a woman celebrating the Eucharist or even being dressed like a priest. I distinctly remember being ordained, all dressed up, ready to walk down the aisle behind the choir, and looking down at my robe and stole and thinking how strange I looked. So I could imagine how those in the pews were feeling as they struggled with the whole idea of a woman looking like and acting like the main icon of the church’s sacramental life who had always been a man. Not just for a while but for thousands of years! So, all through my own journey of upheaval, pain, and joy, I tried to remember how I felt and so understand those who just couldn’t move with it as quickly as others. It helped me to live with everything I experienced and to leave it to God to resolve.

As I look back on it all I am so grateful to God for his presence in my own struggles as well as his continual working with the opponents to women’s ordination through the last 50+ years that has brought us to another place in our history. Women are now almost totally accepted members of the ordained clergy and Episcopate, even in the highest office – Presiding Bishop – but there is still work to do. I daily read horror stories told by some of my sister clergy who are currently struggling against discrimination, rejection, and mistreatment and dishonor. So, I continue to labor to get my message into the church – the message that God put me on this earth to speak as loudly as I can.

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Election Day

So tomorrow’s the big day – not sure for what exactly as I don’t hold out much hope that change is in the offing in the political world of today – but it’s still a big day. It’s a day off for a lot of people but more importantly, it’s the day when we get to exercise our right to vote. As a free country, it’s one of the most important things we can do – vote for our favorite candidates or even vote somebody out of office if we think it’s necessary. However we vote, it is an honor and privilege won for us by many brave people who put their lives on the line for something they believed in so strongly that they fought and they marched and won for us our most precious legacy. All that being said, I still have no idea who I will vote for tomorrow. I’ll just have to let the Holy Spirit guide my hand in the booth.

Tomorrow is also a big day for me, the author of Lady Father. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Delmar, NY is a polling station and the church puts on a Craft and Bake Sale. I have been invited to display and hopefully sell my books during one of the busiest days our Parish Hall sees all year. So, I’m sitting here thinking through this upcoming lo-o-o-o-ong day about what I might need to have with me ALL DAY! Things like lunch, water, you know, the basics. Oh and I can’t forget snacks – healthy of course! i mean, I’ll be there from 6 am to 3 pm!! I have all the marketing tools I need, a large poster, large business cards with all the appropriate information, a thank you note to put in purchased books telling about God is in the Journey, my prequel to Lady Father, and my computer in case anyone wants to buy one on the spot – and of course, I have BOOKS to be autographed and sold. Well, I thought if I wrote about this, I’d think of something I need to take but it looks like I’m all set (I even remembered my medications which I have a hard time remembering when I stay home). If you are a registered voter in Delmar, NY, come on by St. Stephen’s. You may vote in another polling station but you can’t beat the goodies (YUM) and the great gifts (handmade) that will be spread out by our talented cooks and craftersI And you might find a good book to read!

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A “Fierce Episcopalian”

I am what’s known as a “cradle Episcopalian.” That just means that I was born into an Episcopal family, then baptized in an Episcopal Church, and raised as an Episcopalian. Some folks like that get away from the church for a time or forever and they’re not considered “cradle Episcopalians.” I looked around when I was a teenager (just because my boyfriend was a Methodist and they had a killer youth group) but I have always remained true to my church.

I know there are many others out there who are just as faithful and many for longer than I have been but today, I came face-to-face with an Episcopalian who was born into an Episcopal family and baptized in an Episcopal church but had been looking around since early adulthood. When she finally decided that the Episcopal Church was the right place for her, she became what I am going to call a “Fierce Episcopalian.” When I sat down to visit with her, her first question to me was “Have you brought me communion?” Her eyes were rimmed red so that she looked like she was going to cry. Her voice was tremulous so she sounded like she was going to cry. I have never wished for a communion set so bad in my whole ministry! She had been waiting for several weeks for someone who had brought her communion to return and she was really hurting. She was feeling abandoned and just downright miserable. When I assured her that I would follow up on my efforts to be sure she received communion once a week (turned out somebody had dropped the ball while I was being a “Traveler”), her face softened and I knew she was comforted by my assurance.

The good news is that, within hours, I was able to secure the assurance of the local Episcopal priest that she would receive communion on Sunday and that he would visit her personally and invite her to join his parish community. I know that will make her happy although she is still struggling with a deep personal issue with God. At 95, she is wondering what her purpose is in this little bit of life she has left. After a lot of conversation, with me listening carefully to her very deep and profound insights into the church of today and how it differs from the old traditional Episcopal Church, we had a lively discussion about where God is in our lives today, what kind of plan he might have, and even eagerly agreed on the veracity of this statement: God surely has a sense of humor.

I guess my point is this: We can be Episcopalians (or members of any denomination) for a long time or a short time or even be brand new at it, but what matters most is how “fierce” we are about whatever we choose to be in God’s world. The definition of fierce is showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity. But what I like even better is this: Fierce comes from the Latin ferus, translated ‘wild animal.’ It means strong, proud, dangerous, and ready to roar. That is what I saw in this dear lady’s face when she asked me if I had brought communion. She wanted her Lord’s body and blood and, when she didn’t get it, she was ready to roar. Now that’s what I call a “Fierce Episcopalian.” Oh that we could all commune with our Lord on that level.

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Who me? A Traveler!

It looks like I must be since I just returned from a trip all the way across the country – from New York to Chicago to Denver to San Francisco to Portland OR to Spokane WA to Chicago and back home. Sounds like a nice quiet and peaceful journey doesn’t it? Well, I guess in some world it would be but the world I was in was an Amtrak sleeping car which is anything but quiet and peaceful. First, of course, there is the roar of the train itself as it barrels (or creeps) along. Then there is the almost constant train whistle warning approaching vehicles at every railroad crossing. And then the Engineer, Dining Car, and Cafe’ Car all begin their announcements at 7:00 am and shortly thereafter you can hear the not-so-quiet conversations of the passengers and train attendants as they begin their day. So quiet it is not. Peaceful? Well, on some level, there is some peace involved in “leaving the driving to them” and just enjoying the scenery.

But the best thing about this trip, besides the glory of God’s creation – all the mountains (which I love) and rivers and trees and more mountains, was the incredible bunch of people I met. At every meal, my sister and I never knew who our dining companions would be as we were seated as we came in and had to sit wherever the wait staff told us. At first, I thought that was a little pushy but I soon discovered that it was most exciting to wonder who we would face across the table at every meal and we did meet some of the most interesting, friendly, funny, and delightful people!

On the last leg of the trip, I was traveling alone from Chicago to Albany (my sister had taken another train to her home in Virginia) and I went to breakfast where I sat with two sisters traveling to Boston. One was from Madison WI and the other was from somewhere in Illinois and they were so much fun to talk to and listen to that we found ourselves on our 4th cup of coffee watching the lunch diners entering the car at 11:30! We decided to meet for lunch at 12:30 and after another uproarious meal together we closed down the dining car, only leaving when the train had made its last stop before Albany in Schenectady. We planned it so that we could walk back to our roomettes without the unavoidable lurching (that’s what I call the uncontrollable swaying of the train that causes anyone trying to walk to “lurch”). We said goodbye only to meet again on the platform where they were getting some fresh air and I was being wheeled to the station to meet my ride. Yes, my body (actually, my knees) had finally given out and I couldn’t drag that suitcase another inch so here’s to the railroad employee who found me a ride!!

So, at least for 8 days, I was a traveler. I’m not sure how many more trips I will take in the future but I’m sure of one thing – none of them will be on a train. I did love the spectacular scenery, the people, the time with my sister, the food, and the time away from the everyday grind. I even have to say that I loved the freedom from worrying about where we were (except for the 7-hour delay which made us miss our connection in Portland where we spent the night in a hotel), how we were getting there, when to stop for gas, etc., etc. There is something freeing about letting go and just enjoying the ride! But, at the end of the day (actually, every day) I assessed the amount of discomfort I had endured from the “lurching” and just fighting to stay vertical or to stay in the very narrow bed as I never knew which way we would “lurch” next and found that train travel may be more for the younger generation or at least for those more agile than I am. So I bid farewell to Amtrak and limped off to the car taking me home, which looked pretty good to me but I quickly discovered that it wasn’t over yet. As I walked into my apartment, I could have sworn that I was still on that train. I could literally feel myself “lurching” just enough to make me hang on to my furniture just as I had hugged the walls of the train cars. It didn’t last long but just long enough to remind me of my traveling days. And you know what, it made be eternally grateful to God for the opportunity to see more of his vast creation than I ever have and for bringing me home in one piece – a slightly bruised and sore traveler,

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Who me? An Expert!

Well, I have finally arrived! Check out this Guest Blog on WriteOnOnline on writing a memoir. I sound like an expert for sure!

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“Lady Father” is now available on, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, indiebound, and other distributors. I didn’t think it would ever become a reality but after so much hard work and a “little bit” of angst, it is amazing to see my labor of love in such prominent positions. Here is the amazing trailer my freelancer made:

There’s not too much else to say except thank you to all who have bought Lady Father, been interested in it, spread the news about it, or just wished me well. I love you all. God Bless.

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The past few months have been hectic and at times, almost overwhelming. As most of you know, I’ve been campaigning loud and long to get my publisher to re-release Lady Father. The fact that he finally agreed and it is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound,,, (for those local to me, that’s Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza), is nothing short of a miracle. I have to admit there were times when I thought just maybe God didn’t really want me to do this. Then, one thing would work, then another and suddenly, I was looking at a long list of successful listings and promises to purchase and one speaking engagement and a few almost certain possibilities (how’s that for vague?).

Through all the computer glitches, disappointments, and uncertainties, I kept my focus on one thing – bring Lady Father’s message back! That was my mission back in 2011 – to spread the message that ordination and church ministry is in God’s control and that God was using me (as well as others) in the lives of those around me who faithfully stood by their conviction that the all-male priesthood was sacrosanct. Now, 8 years later, that mission is stronger than ever even though it seems that women have a strong presence in the ordained leadership of the Church and – this is what kept nagging at me during the dark moments – there is no need for the message of Lady Father.

That message – that God called me and many other women just like me to become priests in his church and that he walked with us through all the struggles as well as the joyful times – is what I believed God wanted me to say to the Church and the world. But at least once or twice a day, it WilliamAndMarywas all brought into question as I struggled to get that message out through my website and social media. And then, I received an email from an old college classmate from our days at William and Mary together back in the 60’s. It seems that she had bought my book and 1/3 of the way through it when she realized “how much i wish we had known each other better in college.  You see, college-wise you have been telling my story, too.” She went on to describe her experiences which so eerily coincided with mine that I immediately felt a bond that we never could have formed in college. For now, we had “walked a mile” in each other’s shoes. I felt so blessed at that moment but it got better.

A few days later, I heard from her again – now she was ¾ of the way through the book and she said such stunning words that I want to share them with you. “Women of our generation – like you – began the hard work of clearing the path for them. It’s been 30, 40, 50 years now and few of them really know how hard it was and how much you paid to open things up for them. While most folks are aware of the “women’s movement of the 70’s, the bra-burners, the rabble rousers,” it’s the women who went to work every day and stood strong against the daily slings and arrows that did the real work of changing what the world has to offer us and how the world sees us, That made the real difference.  It’s a story that needs to be told before we all die off. And, your book tells it from the perspective of a minister.”

I was blown away – I had never been told that in so many words although many friends and colleagues showed it in their staunch support of me. All of a sudden, my mission became clear once again and my struggles and efforts became worthwhile. I felt like I had been re-born in some profound way. I am so grateful to her for those words.

But it’s not over yet. Today, our Rector, the Rev. Scott Garno, preached about the words of Paul to Timothy – “there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.” As he always does so well, he brought us to the question, “What does that mean for us?” Suddenly, I heard him say that, as Christians, everything we do must be for the glory of God. He made it so clear that God has created the world with his own plan and that we are the hands through which it gets played out. And we don’t and can’t do it on our own steam but through the power of God and the love he showed us through the gift of his only Son for our redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Everything we do, we do through him and for him – not through our own power or for ourselves. 

And it all became clear – all the work I have done and will do to get God’s message out into his world, I have done through his power and with his guidance. Even the glitches and problems had their purpose as they eventually got worked out thanks to the perseverance he has given me to find my way through the maze of computers, websites, and social media. I don’t know exactly how, but God has managed to forge me into a still semi-literate book marketer who manages to get enough things right to make a difference. I think I have always known that but the difference now is that I am absolutely convinced that, no matter how successful I am at all the minutia, my job is just to spread the message of Lady Father. How far and how wide it goes is going to be according to his will, not mine. I can only keep typing and posting and praying. God will do the rest.

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Today is a blessed day. First, it is the Lord’s Day – Sunday – and I was blessed by the worship and fellowship at St. Stephen’s in Delmar. Second, it is cool outside, which I believe is God’s way of rewarding us northerners in August for living through last winter and to let us know that we will survive the next one.

But, here’s the 3rd reason – I have heard from my publisher and “Lady Father” is in the process of being re-released!!  This is unbelievably good news as I have worked so hard for the last 2 months to convince him that “Lady Father” has potential for sales. It will be re-activated on Amazon and, get ready for this, 39,000 other booksellers. I can’t even wrap my mind around that. I babbled something when he told me that but was finally able to get out this kernel of hopefulness: “Surely, everybody will be able to find a copy!”

I’m not exactly sure how long it will take for the booksellers to get “Lady Father” on their “shelves” but I have been assured that it will at the very latest be available by September 20th. It probably will be earlier than that but you will be able to purchase a paperback for sure by then. I hope you have decided that you would enjoy reading my story. If this is the first you have heard of it, you are in the best place to learn more about me and my memoir. There is a sign-up form at the bottom of each page where you can reserve a copy.

So, I’m off to get letters and press releases ready to send and other chores, all the while thanking and praising God for this blessed day!!

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Guess what I just discovered! “Lady Father,” my memoir is Lady Fatheravailable on for $14.95 and as a Kindle eBook for $9.95!! So if you want a copy now, just go to . Enjoy!

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Have you ever discovered a two-faced truth? That is something that is true but that makes you both happy and sad at the same time. 

Here’s my two-faced truth for today. Lady Father is a compelling book about one woman’s (that would be me) struggle to become an Episcopal priest and to serve God in that capacity in a world where women had just 10 years before been allowed to be ordained, at least in some places. That’s the truth. So here are the two sides to the picture: Here’s the one that makes me happy. It is compelling, well-written, inspiring, humorous, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and – in its day (the 1980’s and 1990’s) timely. Even in 2011 when it was published, it was still a story that grabbed the attention of those who were struggling with workplace discrimination in any situation, not just the church. Here’s the sad part: It is now 33 years since my journey started, and most places in the church today have a goodly number of ordained women, as Deacons, Priests, Pastors, and even Bishops. The struggle to get there now seems to be in the past making Lady Father not so timely.

But here’s the weird thing – having a book about such a struggle not being relevant anymore should really make me happy. But, unfortunately, this story is still pertinent today, especially to women in clergy leadership in most denominations. I am a member in several women clergy groups on Facebook and I am appalled at the stories I read of church lay leaders treating their women clergy like second-class citizens. I read the same things from my sister clergy that I dealt with on my own journey. Most probably, there aren’t as many instances of such abuse as there were 30 years ago, but the fact that it is still happening today makes Lady Father a must-read for women contemplating following God’s call to ordained ministry, women currently serving in church ministry, as well as anyone following a vocation in a traditionally male or female career. That’s right, men suffer such indignities in a traditionally female career – just ask any nurse or hairdresser.

Regardless of how many laws have been passed or how much our collective “awareness” has been raised, the discriminatory practices in our society have not gone away – in fact, in many situations, people of any gender, race, or creed may find themselves victims of discrimination. Human nature, unfortunately, makes us all prone to judge others according to things like skin color, gender, age, religion, opinions, to name a few, that can make life difficult for the different, no matter where we are or who we are. So, Lady Father IS still a timely story of a journey through a discriminatory institution with its many barriers and rejections, the perseverance and courage it took to survive, and the joy and satisfaction that resulted from following God’s call no matter where it led.

After all this reflection, I am more determined than ever to follow my mission to bring Lady Father to readers everywhere. We all need this book, which speaks loudly to all people of what it means to follow your call in life, no matter who tries to stop you. If you want to be uplifted, inspired, amazed, and entertained, read Lady Father. It Took a Huge Leap of Faith.

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What Do I Call You?

I was at church yesterday and I met a really nice woman who, when she found out I am a priest, asked me if I wanted to be called Mother. I cringed inwardly while I laughingly said, “Oh no, please. Just Susan is fine.” She looked a little puzzled so I explained to her why I don’t like the “Mother” title for women.

When it first began to be the “right thing to call a woman priest” I cringed because I had been a camp counselor and Diocesan youth leader where all the kids called me Mama Sue. I had worked very hard to put that life in the past as I was embarking on a whole new one and the two titles were just too close. But as time went on and the title caught on, I really thought about why I didn’t like it and what I discovered is this: The rationale behind it is – if men are called Father, then women should be called Mother. Sounds reasonable right.? Well I thought maybe so but it still just rankled with me so I went deeper. What I finally realized is that this kind of thinking keeps the issue of women’s ordination out there as a gender issue. If men can, then women should be able to also. While I think that’s true about most things – like women should be paid as much as men, women should be treated with the same respect as men, women should be invited to and welcomed at all clergy gatherings – I realized that this name issue is right up there with the term “woman priest.” I am always clear, if I can do it gently and it’s appropriate, that I am not a woman priest – I am a priest. We do not call men a “man priest” so why should we now, some 40 years after the first women were ordained, continue to refer to us as “women priests.” Calling a woman “Mother” perpetuates that kind of thinking for me. So I always suggested that people call me Susan. (As a side note, I grew up in the Episcopal Church of the 50’s and 60’s when the priest was called the “minister” because a priest is Roman Catholic, thank you very much, and we’ll never call our ministers priests. My parents and all the MsRevrendBowman (640x424)adults were very comfortable calling our minister Syd and all us younger ones called him Mister Swann. I did encourage the young kids in my parishes to call me Rev Susan – yes I know that is not a grammatically correct title but it did serve to alleviate the problem with parents who didn’t want their kids calling an adult by their first name. In this picture, I have been to a church in Newport News, Va with a group of girls who told everybody there that I was “Ms. Reverend Bowman.”)

Of course, that brings up the flip side of this issue which I didn’t realize until after my first major parish ministry ended badly and I had the opportunity to reflect about it. What I realized is that it does have its appealing side to what we should be called – it eliminates the awkwardness of the term “Mother Susan,” it makes me seem more human to the people in the pew who sometimes hoist us up on this pedestal we cannot possibly stay on, and it made me more comfortable as it did some parishioners. Upon reflection, though, I wonder how many people were really that comfortable calling a priest by their first name. I called our pension office often in those days, and many times I talked to a nice young man who confessed to me that he couldn’t possibly call be by my first name because I am a priest so he just had to call me Father. This happened to me some and I always said, “Call me what you need to.”

The other thing I realized is that I don’t think calling me by my first name accorded me the amount of respect that a title would have. For the people in the pew, that may be more unconscious but I wonder if it doesn’t work on them at that deeper level where respect comes from. Anyway, I am now retired and not so worried about the respect side of the issue although there are probably still people out there who are not comfortable with a first-name basis so I am now mostly going to graciously offer to people who ask the opportunity to call me whatever makes them comfortable and if that turns out to be Mother Susan, well in the immortal words of my brother-in-law Joe – it is what it is.

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God Stuff

I’m bushed!! Started the day arranging flowers for hospice to deliver to patients. Then spent an hour walking WalMart getting so many different kinds of things, I ended up making 2 trips around the store. Went home for a few hours then off to a hospice visit with a man whose ex-wife and her sister have been there with him for over a month! They are my new heroes – I’ve sat in many a hospital room for hours – but days…and weeks?…WOW!!

Then I went for my weekly visit to the restaurant with the best pizza in town – ate my 2 pieces and played Mahjong on my phone and took off for home. Went through a rain storm on the way so found myself praying all the way home – “please stop this before I reach my apartment…please…please! Sure enough, by the time I had reached home, the rain had stopped! YAY! As if all that wasn’t enough I somehow got the energy to clean out my refrigerator and freezer, half filling a garbage bag with old, old, old foodstuffs.

So now I’m in my recliner with my feet up and, having read my emails, am reflecting on my visit with a dying man. I talked some with the 2 sisters and realized that they were pretty savvy about the dying process having talked with the Hospice folks and witnessed their friend in the throes of death. They are peaceful and seem ready to say their final goodbyes to this man with whom they grew up and have known for more than 50 years. They described how he had rallied yesterday and then gotten worse again this morning and one of them asked me, “Is it true that we all do this at our own rate, in our own way,” She was spot on!

I don’t know what it’s like to lay in bed waiting for death to come but I have sat with many dying people, held the hands of the dying while death claims them, and listened to many who have faced that moment and are right at the brink so I know she’s right. No matter what has brought us to the edge, no matter who we are, where we’ve been in life, what we’re feeling at the time, dying is the one absolutely unique thing that we all do – in our own way – in our own time.

Of course, occasionally, something can get in the way of that unique road to heaven. My Dad had a massive stroke and the doctor said it was only a matter of time so we were all gathered around his bed, Scott (my paramedic son) holding one arm and me on the other side, both of us constantly monitoring his pulse. My family was carrying on with its usual method of dealing with grief – humor. We were telling stories and laughing like there was not a dying person in the room but every so often, we’d lapse into silence, laced with quiet sobs and sniffling. Then, it happened. Scott said, “Mom, he’s gone,” and I knew that my Dad had had enough – he never could take but so much of our hilarity. We brought Mother over and told her and she immediately dropped to her knees and beat on his arm, yelling at him, “You said I could go first!” It was surreal but not as surreal as the next moment when Scott said, “Mom, he’s back.” I felt his arm and sure enough, he had a pulse. I’m convinced that he was ready to go quietly and had done it when Mom’s outburst brought him back to reality, just as she had so many times when he tried to retreat into himself and be quiet. He was going out his own way until his dear wife interrupted .

As I write that, I am aware that many people will disagree with me but, I am convinced that dying is a highly intimate enterprise and we indeed each do it our own way as long as we are left to it. I know some people believe that God “takes” us when he thinks it’s time but I have come to believe that God does not “take” us. God stays with us as we prepare to die and face that final moment, waiting patiently until we are done. Now I know that there are many situations when people actually pray that God will “take” their loved one because of the pain they are suffering and many believe that when this person finally does die that God has taken him or her out of that misery. Well, maybe but I still like to believe that God is with us, never leaving us, and never forcing himself on us throughout our whole life. So, why, at the most powerful moment of that life would God intervene in it and force his will on us. Having said that, I have to leave you with my best wisdom about all this – something I have shared with all the people I have ministered to over the years – This Is God’s Stuff. We are not meant to know the answers to these big questions; if we did, then we’d be God and we all know what happened when a human dared to enter that sacred space.

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Oh! The Horror of it All!

What a day!!! Started with a no-show for an appointment I had set and re-set 3 times – then she didn’t show! Gr-r-r-r. Then spent 1/2 hour trying to get my SS benefit letter because I lost mine before I realized I was in the Medicare website going through password hell. Finally got to SS and my bank and for some reason the printer was printing in landscape mode so had to do it all over again. Arg-g-g-gh! Now I’m getting ready for my first Pinochle game here in the house – anxious to see how many people show up! I love playing Pinochle and I’m a good teacher so it should be fun. So that’s my day so far.

In the midst of all that, I’m so sad and distressed over the poor souls whose lives got snuffed out over the weekend. I just can’t believe this violence continues! I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and no one would have ever done such despicable things to innocent people in such public places for no apparent reason. I know there were wars and civil unrest and violence but this seemingly random destruction of human lives has me totally bumfuddled. I’m afraid I’m becoming convinced that it is a societal ill that we (government, medical community, parents, teachers, other child caregivers) have sat by and allowed to manifest itself and continue to grow and destroy vital parts of our society. Somehow, this vicious evil permeated our society while we thought it was just teenagers trying to grow up, addicts who just couldn’t stop but who we thought weren’t dangerous, children trying to stop the pain of an agonizing, abusive childhood, and other seemingly “normal” people who we thought were not dangers while all the while growing into monsters. I believe something has caused these poor souls to click on self-destruct-and-take-others-with-you mode. Maybe it is the result of a combination of distressing events over the years that has caused psychotic breaks in their fragile minds so again maybe we’ll never know what it was. That’s mind-bending to me – that we can never know the root of this evil. Without that knowledge, it is so hard to fight it.

But fight it we must – with prayer – every day, every time we hear of children being abused and TheHandsleft to their own mental agony, every time another one snaps and takes out innocent ones – prayer that surrounds our society and all of us who are capable to respond with such outrage and sorrow that the prayer circle over us will be never-ending and loud enough to be heard around the world and in heaven. Of course we know that God hears even our silent prayers but letting it be heard helps us to feel closer to God and like we can be part of the solution instead of silent on-lookers. We can also fight by being observant – as parents, teachers, neighbors, and others who witness aberrant behavior – and gently intervening hopefully to alert the right people to take action. It is such a ticklish situation to try and help someone who can’t see the problem and resents any interference in their lives but what else can we do – stand by and watch as more and more unbalanced people wreak havoc on our society?

I guess I don’t have the answer but I do believe that God is with us and abhorring every minute of the grief and horror that we are living through in this life. As a Pastor, I can only assure those around me of God’s love, his sacrificial act of salvation for our sins, and the hope that God will soon break through into this world so that no one will ever doubt that they are loved and saved. Amen.

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Oh! The Joy of Friends

(If you’re coming from my Facebook page, scroll down to the 5th paragraph, “Of course,…)

It’s Saturday night and almost time for bed – church in the morning! I’ve spent the better part of the last 2 days fighting with WordPress and my website. Every time I think I have it right, something else messes up and off I go in search of the ever elusive WordPress help. But as tonight winds down, I think it’s all working just fine so let me wax eloquent on one of my favorite topics – friends.

I have been working on Facebook for awhile now and not long ago, I happened to find a way to open my Friends list and I was astonished to find so MANY people from my past and present, from the church, from church summer camp, and many other places. I thought about it a lot and I think what happens is that we tend to focus on the friends we have now – currently – and those we treasured in the past tend to slip through our fingers, rather our minds.

I used to say I didn’t like Facebook much because of all the inanity I saw on it but as I’ve used it more and more to keep up with my child and my grandchildren, not to mention my extended family so far away, I’ve discovered a grudging and growing fondness for Facebook. The day I found all those “Friends” and realized that they are indeed real friends and not just the ones you accumulate from replying to the posts of total strangers, was the day I decided that Facebook is OK in my book. Oh it still has its problems and annoyances but mainly it fills my needs to keep up with people, who are the highlight of my life.

That’s right – I’m a people person. I’ve always known this because I’ve spent my life in many relationships and friendships and I know that when I’m cut off from the people in life, I dry up and become withdrawn and unhappy. This became so clear when I returned to the ranks of the “people in the pew” and got to sit around at coffee hour with absolutely no responsibilities and could just talk to anyone I wanted to. I didn’t have to worry about who needed me or who was watching to see who I was talking to or any of those undesirable things that clergy have to keep in the forefront of their minds. I could just talk and talk and talk. 

Of course, I have always been good at that and that has never been more clear than it has been these last 4 weeks. I find myself talking to everybody around me about just about anything, always starting off by finding who it is I’m talking to – you know, what do you do? How many kids do you have? Where did you go to school? and etc. and etc. And what I have discovered anew is that I really love hearing other people’s stories. Now, don’t get me wrong I love telling my own story, but I always try to remember that if I love having someone listen to my story, then other people also love having me listen to their stories.

So these past weeks have found me almost overwhelmed with people’s names, spouse’s names, children’s names, vocations, schools, etc., etc. I have found every week that I have to ask someone what their name is again and sometimes I realize that I’ve already asked them what they do when they start telling me and it’s familiar. That can get a little embarrassing sometimes but one of the wonderful things about getting old is that just about everybody expects you to have a terrible memory!

But, back to the really old friends – not in age but in longevity. Going through my “Friends” list in Facebook has led me down so many memory lanes, I can hardly keep the remembrances straight. I have been getting in touch with all of these folks lately and finding myself saying so many times, “Do you remember the time when,,,?” And they always come back with similar questions for me. That has been fun but the most satisfying thing about all this is the warm glow I get when I remember each person, the fun we had, the relationship we shared, and the love we have for each other. I realize that I have been truly blessed over my lifetime and continue to be blessed as I have resurrected so many old friends while enjoying all the new ones. Isn’t life just grand sometimes?

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I’m SO Happy!!

I am so happy!! I just returned from church and I have to say it’s the friendliest church I have ever been in. I’ve been going there for 4 weeks now and a week doesn’t go by that I am not greeted warmly by at least 3 people I don’t know. Every week I have had stimulating and very interesting conversations with the nicest people, some I knew back in the day when I used to go to clergy meetings there.

For several months after I broke my ankle (in September,) I was in a rehab hospital and when I returned home, I was still using a walker and had a big, clumsy boot so I mostly stayed home unless somebody would take me out – to the grocery store, etc. I guess I got a little bit into the “nothing to do on Sunday mornings” after 33 years of having something important to do on Sunday mornings. I would tell myself on Saturday nights, “I really should go to church,” or “I really need to go to church,” but didn’t set the alarm and just didn’t get up and go. I’m not really sure why but I guess I needed a serious break.

Anyway, one Saturday night, I was going to bed and I said to myself, “I think I’ll go to church tomorrow.” Notice the major difference in the words I used – now it was “I’ll go” with no “should’s” or “need to’s). Always prepared, I searched for the church’s website to find out what time the service was, set my alarm and went to sleep. The next morning I showed up at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, found a seat near the back where I could see everything that was going on but I saw 2 friends from my apartment house closer to the front so I went around the back to come up on their pew from the other end so they didn’t have to get up. I rounded the back pews and started down the aisle in front of the baptismal font. Little did I know that there was a nice platform around the font which I promptly hit with my foot and fell down!! Luckily there were 2 people there who asked how I was and when I said fine, helped me up and I continued to the pew like nothing had happened. They may have been the only people who saw me because nobody ever mentioned it.

When I got to my pew and looked at the bulletin, I was a little put out to discover that it was a baptismal and first communion Sunday and I thought, “Oh no, I don’t know these people and it will be so long,” but I quickly settled in and began to get into the worship. The Rector preached a fantastic sermon, which he does every week, about welcome – welcoming the one being baptized and all the children making their first communion. But I’m convinced he was really preaching to me because I felt his welcome in the depths of my soul, which desperately needed to be welcome somewhere.

It was when he started the Renewal of Baptismal Vows that I knew that it was God who brought me to that Church that Sunday. Suddenly I was completely washed with a sense of renewal, not only of my soul which had been somewhat empty of late, but also of my whole self. That renewal filled me up and I knew I was home. I had been away from the Episcopal Church and its worship for 12 years and that day, I knew I was home and I felt it down to the tips of my toes.

Since then, I have made many new friends, talked to the Rector about how I could fit into parish life as a priest, had lunch with 2 old friends, and agreed to do a speaking engagement for their Daughters of the King group in October. So, as you can probably tell, if you missed the first sentence – I am so happy. Not only did God bring me home to him and his church, but he also made me welcome. For that, I am so grateful and, oh yeah, happy!

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Have You Ever Wondered…

Have you ever wondered what happened to the “Good Ole Days”? I think about them often, especially when I hear about another mass shooting, or a terrorist attack, or a drug raid gone sour killing so many young people, or the sad statistics telling us how many kids have OD’ed on opioids this week, or other sad statistics on how many faithful have left the churches, leaving them almost empty (but the ones that aren’t empty are so focused on survival that they hardly ever think of how to attract new members and if they do seem to be doing it wrong)?

I often call it “shooting ourselves in the foot.” Pardon the pun, but that’s what society does when there is no longer any teaching kids how to respect authority and each other, when it is no longer OK to discipline your kids, to show them what a real family is like, and to ask for help when a child gets out of line or out of sorts. We shoot ourselves and, unfortunately many innocent children, teachers, shoppers, and more, in the proverbial foot. Unfortunately, where they get shot results in much worse injuries and even death.

When so many young people and others whose only mistake was to be in such bad pain, they felt they had no other way to deal with it, find themselves addicted to what used to be a very effective pain killer, especially for post orthopedic surgical pain, we shoot ourselves in the foot. A friend of mine has excruciating pain in her back and her doctor prescribes Hydrocodone. She went to the pharmacy the other day to get her monthly refill and was told that the pharmacy had received a letter saying that they could no longer dispense this medication.  Shot in the foot again!

When a middle schooler acts out and the parents come to pick him or her up for fighting in school maybe, they often blame the teacher, the other kids, or anybody but themselves because their child cannot control the anger that is taking control and making them lose control. When a teenager is morose, dejected, rude, and spends so much time alone, friends and even parents tend to chalk it up to “being a teenager.” Even when this prompts parents to do something, the help needed is either too late or not utilized because psychiatric help is “for crazy people,” not for my son or daughter, or even when used, there seems to be no follow up so that the help they’ve gotten really can help. Shot in the foot again!

We come now to the church and how we have been shooting it in the foot for years. Go back to the medieval times when great theologians were burned at the stake for preaching the Gospel. Go back to colonial times when so many people were persecuted in their own countries that they sought refuge in America where, lo and behold, there were people like the Puritans who sought and killed so many faithful people who didn’t follow their rules as well as those they deemed to be witches.

Now fast forward to the 20th century when women began to hear the call to ministry other than reading the lessons in church, serving on the Altar Guild or the Vestry. Up to then the church had been happily supporting and loving its all-male priesthood, and in some places its all-male Vestry and Layreaders. It had been this way for eons and in many places there were priests, Bishops, and laypeople who were determined it would stay that way. Bishops were elected on their belief that women should not ever be allowed to serve in any leadership position. Commissions on Ministry were filled with those who agreed with said Bishops, thus effectively closing the doors on any female who tried to get the proverbial foot in the door. Shot again!

In 1976, some said the doors were finally swung open when 11 women were ordained in Philadelphia but no one really knew how strong the opposition was. Chaos reigned as some bishops said it was okay to ordain women while their Commissions on Ministry flatly refused. Some Bishops went against the Commission and promised to ordain women anyway. But none could make it through the ordination process with such adamant opposition. In some Dioceses, the Bishops and the Commissions on Ministry agreed that it was time to admit women to the process, seminary, and parish ministry. No matter what the situation was between Bishops and their Commissions on Ministry, the laypeople were left to figure out for themselves what was right. There were some who were ecstatic that the priesthood had at last been opened to women and there were some who thought it was probably OK but they were mostly in Dioceses where the Bishop ordained women. Then there were the ones who adamantly opposed the whole idea and most of them left the church they had loved for many years and the Anglican Church of America was born as a refuge for good Episcopalians who just couldn’t picture women in cassock and alb, blessing bread and wine, distributing the body and blood of Jesus, and blessing the people, not to mention baptizing them. There were some of the “unbelievers” in women’s ordination who refused to be “run out of their church” and who stayed on, bravely showing up in church and, when there was a woman officiating, bravely stuck it out. Many of those people were transformed by experiencing the same wonder and grace at the Eucharist where a woman celebrated or hearing the same Word of God preached from the same pulpit and not experiencing any falling ceiling timbers. Many, including Bishops and other clergy who were similarly transformed, became staunch supporters of women who had felt called to the priesthood and had let nothing stand in their way of answering God’s call to ministry.

So, the question is, who got shot in the foot in the church? Who paid the price for the chaos of the last 40 years in the church? Know who? Everybody! I don’t think there was anyone in the church of those days who came out of it unscathed. Those who left for other places were hurt the worst as far as I am concerned because they lost out on a grand and glorious church that had nurtured them, their families, and millions of others for more than 600 years. Those who finally came around were hurt by the time they spent in a church they felt was abandoning them and all the church had stood for for the same 600 years. Those who were all in favor of women being ordained were hurt by those who didn’t and by Bishops and Commissions on Ministry who made women wait for so long before their transformations opened the doors.

I guess the bottom line is this. Humanity has been shooting itself in the foot since the Garden of Eden and it doesn’t look like there is any end to the shooting. We have continued to find more and more creative ways to sin in the eyes of the Lord, as well as in the eyes of much of the human race.

When you think of it that way, don’t we seemed to be doomed to keep on shooting at ourselves and not missing? Doesn’t it seem like there’s no way out of this sick target practice on ourselves? But wait! There is a way out and His name is Jesus. He’s the one God sent to earth to live as one of us and to die for us so that all that human sinning could be forgiven. That’s the best news I could impart to you after this long sorrowful human story. We are loved and saved from ourselves even though the foot-shooting seems to know no end. God loves us all even though we just can’t seem to holster our firearms and let our God-created world be a God-blessed world where there is no foot shooting or any other shooting for that matter. Oh what a dream that is to all of us who are fed up with having our collective feet shot full of holes.

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I think this may be one of the best nuggets of advice ever! And I just experienced a week that proves it. About 2 weeks ago, I decided, upon “expert” advice to change the theme of my website. So I diligently searched and searched through all the thousands (literally!) of available themes to be used with WordPress until I finally decided on one. It was really my second choice because the one I chose first wouldn’t load which goes to prove the 2nd best nugget called “Murphy’s Law – “Whatever can happen, will.” So here I was with my second choice and not a lot of knowledge about changing a theme in a WordPress website, but I took a deep breath, uploaded it and clicked “Change Theme.” 

Well, when I checked the site you can imagine my shock and surprise to see the new theme cradling my beloved site. Well, that feeling was to be short-lived, as it turns out. The more I looked it over, the more things wrong I found, the most important being that some of the page titles, when I clicked on them, brought up completely different content than was supposed to be there. Well, you can imagine how happy I was. I got proceedingly unhappier as everything I tried was to no avail. I searched Google for hours looking for a solution to no avail.

Now, you think that was bad! In the middle of all that, I received an email from my hosting company telling me that a number of my files were “heavy” and needed to be deleted. Evidently, my website files were dangerously close to being too many for the limit. Well, who knew there was a limit. Anyway, I obediently began deleting the files they had on the list but several of them seemed to me to be pretty important, especially one that was at the top of the menu tree which meant it was the root file. Several others looked important so I questioned them. To make a long story blessedly short, by the time they sent a second list with some of the same files on it, I was completely confused and managed to delete the one file that contained ALL of the files for my site. I finished the task and sent a detailed email back expressing my concerns over some of the files I had deleted and some I refused to delete.

So…wait for it…I checked my site and lo and behold, it was offline – not to be found anywhere. Almost immediately, I began to receive thousands (8,000 to be exact) Delivery Failure Messages in my inbox. Somehow these emails were being generated as if they were coming from me! Another long story cut short, after many, many hours on chat with my hosting company, my internet provider, and Apple Care, the situation was finally resolved. I was deleting bogus emails for hours!

The long (it has been hasn’t it?) and short (there was nothing short about it!) of it is this: I went back to my original theme, which works just fine, thank you very much, and have spent the last few days fine-tuning it until I think it works well now. So, there you have my sob story! Is there a lesson in this for me? You betcha! Not every expert always knows what they are doing. By the way, do you know the definition of an expert? It is this: “x-spurt” = a drop of water under pressure. The moral of the story is “Don’t believe everything an expert tells you!” So if I sound like an expert in taking advice, you bet I am!

Please check out the rest of this site and see if you don’t agree that it is just fine, thank you very much!

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You guessed it – another update. I have spoken with my publisher and I now have a plan for the rebirthing of “Lady Father.” It will take some time so the book will not be available on right way. However, if you are interested in purchasing a copy, let me know. If there is enough interest, I can make it available or have some here and can send you one. I’m a little hesitant about buying some without knowing the interest level. So if you have a social media page, I would appreciate it if you would share my book and invite those interested in purchasing a copy of the book to message me on Facebook ( or contact me here on this site by clicking on CONTACT at the top of any page and using the Comment form to let me know. As always, I so appreciate your visiting my website and I wish you Godspeed on your journey.
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Now that I am totally retired I am returning to my website and this Facebook page in an effort to re-connect with so many friends and relatives. I was amazed when I went through my Friends list and found people whom I hadn’t talked to in years – kids from my former youth group in Colonial Heights and in the Diocesan youth program, students and faculty from Sewanee, priests from both the Diocese of Southern Va and Albany, former parishioners, and current friends as well as my wonderful family from the matriarch all the way down to our high school and college “grands.” Some have already “liked” my new and improved Facebook page as well as my website ( and I am warmed by that. In fact, one former SoVa Diocesan youth board member has already responded to my invitation to like my new page! Wow! Thanks Philip Bond.
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I started all of this after publishing my book, “Lady Father,” in 2011 but I wasn’t very good at the marketing part of book writing so both the website and this page didn’t go very far. I posted a lot of sermons from my days as an Episcopalian serving in a tiny Methodist church in the wilds of upstate New York and I have been meticulously going through them with an editing eye finding all kinds of typos I missed. So I am cleaning them all up and in reading them I am amazed at how good a preacher Sewanee had made me. (Yes, that’s a little bragging rights – I know I’m a good preacher and I know why. I had the best homiletics professor there was – Thank You, Edna Evans.)

I have also enjoyed reliving the days when I preached to the most attentive and faithful churchpeople who loved me as I loved them. I love going back and reading these because I use a lot of personal anecdotes and stories, many of which I have forgotten over the years. What a Blast From the Past! I hope you’ll slip over to the website and click on Sermons. There are other drop-downs with no entries – that’s because I lost the energy to keep it up. I have some new sermons to post and plan to write some more articles and reflections in the near future. Hope you’ll keep in touch and check some of them out. You can also scroll down to the bottom of each page and leave comments. Oh I do love to write and it’s good to be back in the saddle again.

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I FOUND IT!! “Lady Father” was indeed on my old computer, an HP laptop with Windows 7. Needless to say, having had my Mac for 8 years, I couldn’t remember how to do anything. I was jumping up and going to my Mac to Google “how-tos” and then back to the HP to try it. Even with a brand new battery, It kept turning off and I give you my word, I had no idea that it was ever THIS SLOW!! And I was having to use the touch pad because my mouse wouldn’t work even after I changed the battery. So threw it away and went and bought a new one. I finally got the gist of it all and saved my precious manuscript as a PDF file. Then I loaded it onto a USB stick, went to the Mac, the file was not there!! Tried several times then gave up and emailed it to myself. Of course, I had some glitches there but finally it is safe and secure on my Mac. Did the same with the other files, Bio, Acknowledgements, Dedication, etc. Now I am waiting for a call from the publisher to “discuss my long term and short term goals,” whatever that means. I just want to know if they can sell my book again.


So stay tuned!! I am slowly but surely getting there. In the meantime, I am continuing to enjoy my retirement, going where I want when I want and going nowhere when I want. I did my first Hospice visit, a vigil at a nursing home where the woman was actively dying. We got there and settled down to wait, comforting and talking to her and in less than a half hour, she passed away. Very peaceful and serene. Unfortunately, her family was still on the way from VA and GA so we didn’t get to meet them. Met later with the Coordinator and other Hospice volunteers and all were amazed that on the very first outing, I was actually present when the patient dies. Most said they had rarely had that experience so they were calling me “Typhoon Mary,” and other similar names and congratulating me on passing the hardest test on the first visit. It was a little surreal as she was in the same condition as Daddy was and her death was almost identical. I felt a twinge of a bittersweet memory as I remembered that day in South Hill when Daddy left this world.

On that note, I will leave you with this: “When someone you love dies, you never quite get over it…you just slowly learn to go on without them but always keeping them tucked safely in your heart.”

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I think I know where my manuscript of “Lady Father” is!! I published it in 2011 and I didn’t get my Mac until 2014 so I have been looking in the wrong places. It must be on my old laptop which is sitting on my desk right now! I was so excited when this dawned on me that I raced over and turned it on or tried to. It was very slow booting up and I had lost most of my knowledge of how to open files so I was struggling with that when a little message popped up saying that the battery was dangerously low. Less than a minute later, it died! So I had to order a new battery because none of the stores around here carry it anymore. It arrives today, Wednesday July 3rd and I will immediately install it and I just know I’ll find my precious book. Stay tuned to this to this page and to my Facebook page ( where I will report my success!!


BTW, I have been updating that website and I found a treasure trove of sermons and articles that I am enjoying reading. I am editing them as I read (I do tend to make typos and miss them on review). I had forgotten how good they were! LOL Yes I am touting my writing ability but at my age, I can do that without too many people thinking I’m conceited. I hope they just realize that I’m getting old and like most senior citizens, I just say what I think because I’m running out of time to do that. Check them out!

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“LADY FATHER” is back! 

My book was published in 2011 and sold some copies but it has occurred to me that there are many of you out there who would enjoy reading my memoir. It traces my journey from my call to priesthood through the ordination process from initial application through ordination until my last 3 ministries. It is honest, straightforward, and uplifting as it documents my barriers and struggles in the process and seminary as well as in some of the parishes I served and the monumental breakthroughs from Bishops to people in the pew who were once adamantly opposed to women’s ordination. It is a must read for the ordained, those entering and struggling through the process, as well as for women and men who are interested in how one woman got through it all.
I am in the process of updating my Facebook page ( as well as this website. I am also in the process of returning the book to and as soon as I can get a copy of the manuscript which was lost when my computer died some months ago. So keep watching either this site or Facebook to find out when the book will be available for purchase. I will also probably make it into an eBook for Kindle. I have gotten such good feedback from readers that I believe it is really a good read for anybody interested in the struggle to allow women in the Episcopal priesthood. Here’s a review from Jean Crew on October 22, 2014: “Susan’s voice is authentic and has the Southern charm of tea on the porch in the evening. Her story is poignant and a true testimony to life’s great design.”
I came along in the late 1970’s finding a call to the priesthood following several years in youth work both in my parish, St. Michael’s in Colonial Heights, Va., and on the diocesan level where I was on the youth board and on the founding team for Happening. When I finally managed to get up the nerve to approach my Bishop, the Rt. Rev. C. Charles Vache’, who was adamantly opposed to women being priests, he shocked me by saying he would send me to seminary for a year and see how it went and I became the first woman he ever allowed to attend seminary. The ripples of shock that coursed through the Diocese of Southern Virginia were probably heard around the whole Episcopal Church! There were feelings of great joy from many people but angry and unbelieving feelings of betrayal and outrage from the Standing Committee down to the people in the pews. I was suddenly in the middle of a fire storm but something in me kept me singularly focused on one things – becoming a priest. In later years, I begged people not to call me a “woman priest” since we didn’t call a man a “man priest.” I also decried the title “Mother” because I felt and still do feel like it places a gender issue on the priesthood. I preferred to find other options like Pastor. I even allowed people to call me “Rev” and I even answered to “Father” from those who just couldn’t call me Susan and couldn’t address a priest any other way. As you can see, the whole idea of a woman being a priest was fraught with issues least of which was the Biblical one. My Bishop told me before he signed my papers to admit me to the School of Theology at Sewanee that he wasn’t hung up on the Biblical language, he just couldn’t imagine laying his hands on a woman’s head and saying the words, “And make her a priest.” It was less than 3 years before he changed his mind and ordained Iris Slocum, who graduated from Sewanee a year ahead of me, as a priest for the first time in his and diocesan history. He ordained me a deacon in February 1985, the first woman he ordained to the transitional diaconate, and I don’t believe I had ever seen him beam any brighter than when he invited me to kneel in front of him on the steps. I felt the full weight of his hands pushing so hard I had to strain to stay upright. He had once told me that he pushed very hard because he wanted those he ordained to know that this was no easy thing they were doing. Wow – was he right! I’ve tried to remember which was harder – seminary, the ordination process, or the subsequent ministries – and I couldn’t tell you. There was so much joy and excitement during all of that but there was also pain from rejection and discrimination, struggling with old traditions and those who just couldn’t let them go, and problems stemming from my own abilities and shortcomings.
So it’s been quite a ride and I must say I’m happy to have come to the end of active parish ministry. At 72 with 2 painful and slightly dysfunctional knees, I am more than ready to not be trying to move around a sanctuary and all its steps. I am also ready to be fed after 33 years of feeding and 12 years of absence from the Episcopal Church. I am so loving the pomp and ceremony of my beloved  Episcopal worship and have re-discovered some friendships that have long been missed.
So between Lady Father and hospice volunteering, I will be kept busy and hope to re-connect with many of you along the way. 
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Budding Authors

This group is for people who like to write, who make a living writing, write just for fun, have published a book or books, want desperately to publish a book, or have published one and need to figure out how to sell it.

That last one would be me. I wrote my memoir in 2011 and it has been languishing in the publisher’s waiting for people to buy it. Unfortunately, I am not the sharpest marketing knife in the drawer so I am starting this group looking for like authors who would like to help each other out with tips, etc. and with sharing lists or posting others’ books on their own page or website. For instance, I have a website where I would start a column for Budding Authors and list your book and where to buy it.

If you are interested, please reply. As far as group guidelines are concerned, all the normal non-abusive, verbally haranguing, rude comments, etc. etc. are banned and will result in removal from the group. We are all responsible adults and everyone is expected to act as such. If not, your posts will be removed. Sign up in the side bar.

Hope to hear from all you Budding Authors soon.

Rev. Susan Bowman

July 6, 2019

Glenmont, NY


Susan Bowman, is an ordained Episcopal Priest, a Grandmother, and a Professional Writer.  She was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1986 and has a story to tell that will speak to all women who are functioning in a traditionally male role.  She has written a book about her experiences of discrimination within the church’s ordination process and in the parishes she served.  Sign up for her Newsletter and important emails.  Fill out the form below to enter contact information securely.

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